Ginger Keller Marx – Gibbon

inducteeAthlete. Gibbon (1990)
A pillar of Gibbon’s back-to-back state championship teams of 1988-89, Ginger Keller scored 1,413 points in high school – making the all-class all-state second team as a senior. The Buffs won 66 straight games with Keller at center, and she averaged a double-double — 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game – while leading Gibbon to its second state championship in 1989. Her senior year, she averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds per game. In her four years, Gibbon posted an 89-4 record in basketball. A dominating middle blocker on the volleyball court, she also qualified for the state track meet in four events. At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, she graduated as the Lopers’ career leader in points (1,758) and rebounds (847) and led UNK to its first-ever NCAA post-season appearance in 1994.

Nancy Kindig Malone – Hastings St. Cecilia

NANCY (KINDIG) MALONE, Athlete–High school athletics for girls in Nebraska was formally revised in the early ‘70s. One of the big stars in the revival was Nancy Kindig, who graduated from Saint Cecilia High School of Hastings in 1977. For four years as a track & field competitor, she led the Blue Hawks to state titles in Class C, contributing efforts in the long jump, hurdles and relays. Her best marks in the long jump (18-11) compare well with today’s girl athletes. Her true grit and determination was a part of St. Cecilia’s 66 straight basketball victories and the 1977 State Championship in Class C. She won gold medals in the hurdles, long jump and relays.

Perhaps the biggest cheers for her came when she was not at her best.  She suffered a broken leg in the relay at the state meet, hobbling but still finishing the race and leading her team to gold.  Later, she returned to the track, after receiving medical attention, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation.

Her track and field prowess earned her a National Junior Olympic team spot and she beat the Russians in the pentathlon in a dual meet between US and Russia all-stars. Later as a University of Nebraska college athlete, she won several Big Eight Conference titles in the heptathlon and pentathlon events.

Teacher and coach.

James Kane – Mount Michael

COACH

The 1954 graduate of Wisner High went on to attend UN-L where lettered in baseball for three years and was twice selected All-Big 7 catcher.  After college he spent three seasons in the New York Yankees farm system.  Leaving baseball in 1962, Jim took a job as teacher and coach at Waterloo High School for two years before moving up the road a ways to St. John’s Seminary, which later would be known as Mt. Michael, as its first basketball coach and intramural director. That job evolved into being the “all everything coach” as other sports were added.  His cross country teams were state champions in 1967 and 1968.  Kane-coached football teams had an overall record of 174-93 and two state championships in ’82 and ’90 while qualifying for the playoffs a total of 10 times.  Jim coached his basketball teams to an overall record of 531-254 with 12 trips to the state tournament.  Four of those trips were consecutive, ’82 to ’85, and two were champions, ’83 and ’85.  As a track coach he had many successful seasons taking the Class C state championship in ’73.  Jim was selected as World-Herald Coach of the Year in 1983.

 

Nicole Kubik – Cambridge

2013 InducteeAthlete. Class of 1996

Nicole Kubik epitomized the word winner. She led Cambridge to four state tournament finals, three state championships and an 81-game winning streak, averaging 22.5 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 steals per game. An outstanding 3-point shooter, she finished with 2,179 points and averaged 28.3 points per game her senior year. At the University of Nebraska, she earned All-Big 12 and second-team All-American honors as a senior and was drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She ranked in the top 10 in steals in NCAA history and fourth in career scoring for the Cornhuskers. Basketball wasn’t her only sport. In high school she was a four-year starter in volleyball, playing on two conference championship teams and earning all-state honors as a senior. In track, she qualified for state three times, winning silver medals in the long jump and 100-meter high hurdles. She also placed in the 300-meter low hurdles and ran on the 1,600-meter relay that set the school record.

 

Tom Kropp – Aurora

Athlete–Those who witnessed the Shrine Bowl after the 1971 graduation of this young man from Aurora High School in 1971, may well believe he was the greatest Nebraska high school football player ever. He was dominating, not only in that all-star setting but in each and every game he played. Sizable at 6’3” and 225 pounds, he was a formidable fullback and yet had surprising speed and quickness on the basketball court, scoring 45 points in a great game played against Fairbury in the state tournament. He was all-state in both sports, and athlete of the year as a senior. While in high school, he had discus throws of record-breaking distance, Truly a fine athlete for all seasons and all sports, and perhaps the best Nebraska has had.

Now here’s the other half of the story:  One of Nebraska’s greatest athletes became one of the most respected basketball coaches in the nation.  In 12 seasons as head coach of the University of Nebraska Kearney, he posted a 245-105 record, a winning percentage of 70 percent. 

Kropp is the only player in UNK history to average a double double over his career (20.7 ppg, 11.2 rpg). As a senior, Kropp tallied 51 points in a win over Central Missouri State, still a record for points in a game by a Loper. During his career, Kropp guided the Lopers to a 67-30 record.

After completing his collegiate career, he was drafted in the eighth round by the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, in the third round by the ABA’s Denver Nuggets, and in the third round by the NBA’s Washington Bullets. He signed with the Bullets and was traded to the Chicago Bulls after his rookie season. He completed his second season with Chicago but was waived after one game of his third season in the NBA. He culminated his playing career by playing in Belgium from 1979-1983.

Sports Illustrated named him one of Nebraska’s 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century.  He was been as Nebraska’s Greatest Athlete for the decade of 1970-1980, and has been inducted into both the UNK and the Nebraska Football Halls of Fame. He is also a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame in 1995.

Roy Katskee – Omaha

Coach. Graduating from Omaha Central in 1960 where he won four varsity letters in football and baseball, Roy attended UNO where he received his bachelor’s degree in Education in 1965. His first year out of college he taught elementary physical education in the Omaha system.  In 1966 he took a job at Nathan Hale Junior High School where they saw him coming.  He was assigned to coach football, wrestling, basketball, swimming, gymnastics and track.  In 1971 he transferred to Omaha Northwest High School where he only had to coach three sports: gymnastics, track and girls softball.  In the 20 years he coached gymnastics, his boys teams had a record of 138-40 with two Metro Conference championships, one Nebraska state championship and three state all-around champions. His girls teams went 163-38 winning the state championship five times and the Metro six times.  His girls teams produced five individual all-around state champions.  His track teams produced 27 individual Metro and state champions.  In six years as head softball coach, his teams had an overall record of 79-31 with three all-State players.  Roy also had charge of some speciality teams. The Northwest Exhibition Tumbling Team and the Physical Fitness teams at Northwest and Nathan Hale who received state and national recognition.

Michelle Kush Bohlen – Gibbon

2013 InducteeAthlete. Class of 1989

Michelle Kush Bohlen was simply a winner. Gibbon High School didn’t lose a basketball game after she moved from Grant before her junior year. The Buffs had their best volleyball season in history her senior year. And she won a gold medal in the high hurdles in track — accomplishments that earned her the 1989 Omaha World-Herald Female Athlete of the Year award. Bohlen was a four-year state qualifier in track and cracked the all-time top 10 in the 300-meter low hurdles. She played in the state basketball tournament all four years, scoring 1,306 points and leading Gibbon to back-to-back state titles and becoming Nebraska’s first Miss Basketball. She signed to play basketball at Creighton, but a promising career hit a snag with recurring knee injuries. She completed her college career at Hastings College, helping the Broncos advance to the NAIA National Tournament.

 

Monte Kiffin – Lexington

HOF inducteeAthlete–Among the surprising things about this “big guy“, a 1958 graduate from Lexington High School; being six feet three inches tall and topping the scales at two hundred plus, was his agility and scoring skills on the basketball court. In 1958 he was rated of all-state quality, having a record average of seventeen points scored per game for the Minutemen on the hardwood. His special sport was football, and he helped lead Lexington to a Class A number one ranking in the fall of 1957 as an all-state tackle. Later as a well-known college player at NU, he became interested in coaching, and as one of Bob Devaney’s assistants, helped with those national championship teams in the 70’s. Later, Monte Kiffin became a successful head coach at North Carolina State and eventually into a highly-respected defensive coordinator career at Tampa Bay in the NFL.

 

BY BRIAN LAHM, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER 6/24/03
LEXINGTON, Neb. – The National Football League’s highest-paid assistant cut his teeth as a baseball coach before embarking on his career path.

And members of the 1963 Class A state champion Legion Midget baseball team in Lexington couldn’t wait to remind their old coach, Monte Kiffin, when they held a reunion last weekend.

Kiffin, a Lexington native who was The World-Herald high school athlete of the year in 1958, returned to his hometown to coach the Midget Legion team in 1962 and 1963 as his University of Nebraska football playing career was winding down.

Forty years later, the 63-year-old Kiffin is working under a three-year, $5.1 million contract as defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He said he has no thoughts of retirement.

Kiffin’s knack for coaching was apparent during his college days, said one of his former Midget baseball players, Tom Stuckey.

“When we went to Hastings for the state tournament, Monte got one of the Nebraska baseball recruits, Bob Stickels, to throw batting practice before our first state tournament game,” said Stuckey, an Omaha businessman who later lettered while playing baseball for Nebraska.

The 6-foot-6 Stickels, who was from Hastings, threw a 90 mph fastball that carried him from the Huskers to a contract with the Kansas City Athletics organization in 1965.

After he tried to hit Stickels’ pitching, Stuckey said, batting against Blair and Beatrice seemed like a breeze. The Lexington players pounded Blair 15-0 in their opening game and then handed Beatrice its first loss of the season with a 9-6 victory in the championship at Duncan Field.

“Few people know that I helped out with the Nebraska baseball program and was the freshman coach when Stickels and Gary Neibauer were freshmen,” Kiffin said. “We played two freshman games, and we went 2-0. It wasn’t hard to do with Stickels and Neibauer pitching.” The Atlanta Braves selected Neibauer as their second-round draft pick in 1966, and he spent five seasons in the major leagues.

But Kiffin didn’t always depend on having an extra ace up his sleeve when he was coaching, former Midget player Gary White said.

“He was very disciplined and expected a lot out of us,” said White, who played center field. “We were in shape. We ran a lot. And when he talked, everybody listened. There was no ranting from him. He had everybody’s respect.”

Kiffin, who was an NU assistant coach when Nebraska won back-to-back national titles in 1970 and 1971, had an opportunity to compete for his first NFL head coaching job last winter when the San Francisco 49ers called him after Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory over Oakland.

“I had the flight to San Francisco all scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday,” Kiffin said. “But the Glazers (team owners) and Jon Gruden (head coach) called and got involved.

“I thought about it. San Francisco had its offense all in place. They just needed some help on defense. But there were some other issues, and I stayed because Tampa Bay is a great place. It’s great to work for the Glazers and Gruden.”

Winning his first Super Bowl, Kiffin said, is better than he had envisioned. “In talking to our players, it’s a much bigger thing than they had imagined,” he said. “A lot of good coaches and players never got to wear a Super Bowl ring, including Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Bud Grant and Marv Levy.”

Kiffin said winning a second Super Bowl title would be hard.

“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody,” he said. “Philadelphia will be waiting for us.  “Everybody does a thorough study on you during the offseason, and they’re ready. It’s a challenge, and we’ll have to step up.”

© St. Petersburg Times  published January 18, 2003

TAMPA — As stories about him go, and there are only about a billion of them, this one isn’t the newest. Perhaps it isn’t even the best.
If you are attempting to describe the essence of Monte Kiffin, the method and the madness, it makes for a pretty good start.

With his passion for the game and defensive knowledge, no one gets the Bucs ready to play like Monte Kiffin, left, with cornerback Brian Kelly.

It is quiet at One Buc Place, and the hour is growing late. The only activity is from the four defensive coaches of the Bucs, each watching tapes in their offices. This isn’t unusual. At One Buc, the offensive coaches usually do their heady work in the early mornings, the defensive coaches late into the night.

And so it was this night when, eureka, Kiffin was on to something. Excitedly, he gathered his coaches into one room to describe, in detail, how tweaking the defense just so in a certain situation was certain to vex and confuse that week’s opponent.

Only one problem.

Kiffin was whispering the details so quietly no one could hear.

“It was the funniest thing you could imagine,” linebacker coach Joe Barry said. “He’s going, ‘I’ve got it. This is how we beat those guys.’ Only we can’t hear him. It’s like ‘psst, psst, psst.’ I felt like saying, ‘Kif, it isn’t like Andy Reid is in the next room. We’re the only four guys in the building.’ ”

It’s the perfect story to describe Kiffin, the crafty, crusty defensive coordinator of the Bucs. Like the man, it is part genius, part goofiness and part glee. You can use the anecdote to gently poke at Kif, the way everyone in the building does. Or you can use it to admire his expertise. Everyone in the building does that, too.

He is the bridge. He is the link between the last successful administration and the current successful administration. He is the common denominator, the man who made sure the Bucs did not slip. He is Kif, man with the knobby knees, the mad scientist’s hair and the knack for arranging the Xs on the blackboard.

“He’s the guy who held things together,” safety John Lynch said. “I remember sighing in relief when Coach Gruden told me that Monte was going to stay.

“Monte is incredible. I can’t imagine playing for anyone else. He’s passionate. He’s knowledgeable. And he can get you ready to play.”

The numbers back that up. Around the NFL, good defenses rise and fall. Not the Bucs. They’ve been in the top 10 in the league for six consecutive years, the most consistent run in the league. This year, they were first.

Those are only numbers, however. For the Bucs, Kiffin’s value this year was to serve as stability as the Bucs looked for a new coach, who hired a new staff, who signed new players and gave them a new offense. It was Kif, and his defense, that gave the Bucs time for that to happen.

“Bridge?” Jon Gruden said. “Monte’s not only a bridge, he’s the Golden Gate. And Rod Marinelli (defensive line coach and assistant head coach) is … well, what’s another famous bridge?”

Kiffin won’t hear any of it, of course. He says the reason for the success is Gruden. He doesn’t whisper when he says it. Gruden, however, says the man he wants to grow up to be is Kiffin.

They love the old guy at One Buc. Warren Sapp does a Kiffin impression that leaves them rolling. Dexter Jackson copies his weekly dance. Jackson’s keys? “Be as stiff as possible,” Jackson said.

Part coach, part character. Such is the twin natures of Kiffin, and both are endearing to the players. He’s half John Nash and half Irwin Corey, old Professor Backwards. Except that Kif would be Professor Knock-Them-Backwards.

“I think a lot of people have it wrong with Monte,” general manager Rich McKay said. “They see his energy, and they hear the stories, and they think what makes him good is that he has a screw loose.

“That’s not Monte. The thing that makes Monte is the attention to detail. He’s unreal. He doesn’t miss anything. And he continues to modify, to tinker with his defense, so it evolves a little each year.”

True. On the other hand, he believes the game should be fun. Besides, the stories are too much fun not to repeat.

Start with the story everyone tells, of Monte’s wild ride. Back when he was the head coach at N.C. State in the early ’80s, Kiffin was trying to stir a little interest in the program. So, during a spring pep rally, he dressed up as the Lone Ranger, had them play William Tell Overture and came charging down the hill atop a white horse. Hi-yo. And furthermore, Silver.

There was the time he vowed to jump out of an airplane. Only it turned out to be a helicopter, and it was hovering about 8 feet above ground.

There was the time an entourage followed him into the ring and, waiting for him there, was Joe Frazier.

There was the time, when he was with the Vikings, he and defensive tackle Keith Millard staged a fistfight on top of a nearby building. It ended when Millard tossed a mannequin, dressed like Kiffin, off the building.

Marinelli has heard t
hem all. The one he likes to tell involves the annual scouting trip to Mobile, Ala.

“Monte’s a gizzard man,” Marinelli said, shaking his head in disgust. “Gizzards. Every year, he stocks up on them. I mean, he brings them home in his carry-on luggage.”

Chicken gizzards?

Marinelli looks at you strangely as if to wonder why you cared what creature they originated inside.

“They’re gizzards,” he said.

The stories fly off the walls. There is the tale of when Kiffin interviewed for a job with the Saints in Jim Mora’s hotel room. The two men talked, and they got more excited, and suddenly, Kiffin was arranging the chairs and end tables in the room in defensive positions. Rumor has it that Kiffin gave a head fake to a recliner.

There are the restaurant stories, where Kif has ordered a meal, then began to diagram plays with the oyster crackers, becoming so obsessed he never got around to eating.

Then there were the skull sessions with Gruden. Kiffin has a place on the beach in St. Petersburg, and Gruden — before he was coach here — used to come home to vacation. The men met once while jogging and spoke. The second time they met, they put on a pot of coffee and started matching plays like Fischer and Spassky.

“I don’t have any hobbies,” Kiffin says, grinning. “I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t golf. It’s just family and football.”

During the season, Kif has been known to sleep four nights a week at the office, just to save the time going home and back. He pretty much lives there, in that tiny office with the cupcakes squirreled away in the drawers and the pretzels on the shelf. It got so bad that once, last year, fellow coaches hid his blanket and pillow so he would go home.

“I love it,” Kiffin said. “You couldn’t pay me to do anything else.”

Don’t get too carried away with the color of Kiffin, however. Behind all the stories, all the laughter, there is a darned fine football coach.

“He’s a great coach,” Barry said. “I’ve been around him for two years now, and I learn something every day. He’s not just the guy who comes up with the plans and schemes. He’s a great technical coach. He could coach any position on the field.

“No offense to the guys who are being considered as head coaches, but it’s unbelievable to me that Monte’s name is never mentioned. He’d be an outstanding head coach. There isn’t any doubt about it.”

Who knows? Maybe it still happens. Kiffin is 62, but he coaches as if he’ll turn 39 any day. Maybe some owner will tap his shoulder yet. After all, all they need is a comfortable couch, a place to hide his cupcakes and a film projector.

Oh yes, and a big white horse.

Kerry Karst – Lincoln East

Athlete

The Lincoln Journal-Star athlete of the year in 1978 and a two-time all-class all-state girls basketball player, she was a junior starter when Lincoln East won the first Class A girls state championship in 1977. In volleyball, she was all-state as a senior, helping the Spartans to the 1978 Class A title. In track, set a school record in the 200 meters. Her athletic success continued after high school: Newcomer of the Year as a starter on Wisconsin’s women’s basketball team; three-year starter at St. John’s where she transferred including co-captain her senior year.

Kristie Korth Brezinski – Columbus Scotus

ATHLETE

Seven times in her high school career Kristie Korth Brezenski enjoyed lifting a state championship trophy. A three-sport standout at Columbus Scotus, she played on three state championship volleyball teams, three state champion basketball teams and a state champion soccer team. She earned all-state honors in all three sports, and was named the 1998 Omaha World-Herald’s girls athlete of the year, but especially stood out in soccer where she set state records for assists. She went on to play at the College of St. Mary where she earned NAIA All-American honors. A four-time conference offensive player of the year, she set several school scoring records. She also played basketball for the Flames for two years.